Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces who defeated Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Belarus’s longstanding autocratic leader, in a presidential election on August 9, 2020. Tsikhanouskaya’s win has been corroborated and championed by both the international and impartial observers that were present for the elections, and many international democratic leaders and institutions.  Her husband, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, was ultimately arrested for his pro-democracy presidential aspirations. Lukashenka has publicly dismissed Tsikhanouskaya as a “housewife,” claiming that a woman couldn’t become president. Instead, Tsikhanouskaya united Belarusian democratic forces together with two other leaders – Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala. 

After her forced exile to Lithuania, Tsikhanouskaya inspired an unprecedented number of peaceful protests, some numbering in the hundreds of thousands, across Belarus. Tsikhanouskaya visited more than 20 countries gathering support for free Belarus, advocating for the release of 500+ political prisoners and peaceful changes through Belarus’ first free and fair election process. In her meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel, and other world leaders, she emphasized the need for a braver response to the actions of the Belarusian dictatorship and Russian malign influence in the post-Soviet space.  

Tsikhanouskaya became a symbol of peaceful struggle for democracy and female leadership.  Among dozens of other distinctions, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is a recipient of the 2020 Sakharov Prize and 2022 Charlemagne Prize. In 2020, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Norwegian MPs nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is included in Bloomberg's TOP-50 Most Influential People, Financial Times' Top 12 Most Influential Women, and POLITICO's Top 28 Most Influential Europeans.

In the six months since Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine, Tsikhanouskaya has expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their struggle against Russian attempts to delegitimize their sovereignty. She has spoken incessantly about the Lukashenka regime’s role in the invasion and has denounced any Belarusian and global support for the ongoing conflict.

Source: Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, September 2022